Tamarack had 35 Israeli staff members this summer, the most ever.
After Tamarack’s summer 2020 programming was canceled due to COVID-19, Tamarack returned this summer with calculated safety measures in place. While Israeli campers were not able to make it to camp, 35 Israeli staff members, the most ever, brought Israel to life this summer.
“This year we had an Israeli counselor in every village,” said Carly Weinstock, director of Tamarack’s Camp Maas. “The Israeli camper program was really missed this year. It was sad we couldn’t have them, but we look forward to continuing that program in the future.”
Israeli staff members led and impacted a variety of programs at camp: from artists-in-residences to staff training to teaching Krav Maga, as examples. In so many ways, Israeli staff enhance the Jewish overnight camping experience.
Yuval Hazon was an Israeli counselor at Tamarack this summer. Hazon wishes Israeli campers were able to attend but believes there were so many Israeli staff that the kids at camp still had positive Israeli experiences.
The presence of Israeli staff members, Israel Day and Jewish programming were obvious ways Tamarack was able to bring Israel to life, but Hazon believes the most important way is through personal connections.
“Just through being who we are, connecting with the campers and counselors here and hearing personal stories about Israel,” Hazon said. “You can hear and read about Israel but it’s so different when you actually get to know someone from there. Every one of us is so different and it just gives you a bigger, more detailed picture.”
Hazon said it’s through those personal connections at Tamarack that she’s made best friends for life.
“That’s the biggest impact, having Jewish-American people here and having best friends from Israel and keeping in touch with them — that’s the best thing there could be.”
Hazon, 22, was a Tamarack camper one time in 2012. This summer was her first time back after nine years.
“The summer I was here as a 13-year-old completely changed my life. I know so many things I did in life were because I came here, and I wouldn’t be where I am in life right now if I wasn’t in camp.”
Hazon, who won the counselor of the year award this summer as elected by her peers, plans on coming back next summer, hopefully with Israeli campers.
“Every one of us had a completely different experience at camp, but I think everyone will remember this summer for their entire life,” Hazon said. “I hope everyone felt like I did here, because this is a place that makes you feel 100% who you are.”
Included in Israeli’s staff’s training before they arrive is how they can bring their story in Israel and implement it in camp. Weinstock herself had a connection to Israeli’s staff’s impact this summer.
“My son had an Israeli counselor who he developed a really nice relationship with,” Weinstock said. “To have conversations with my son about Israel — he’s in fourth grade — it’s just really nice.”
Israel Day, a day of celebration where the entire camp participates in festivities with Israel-themed food, music, dancing, activities and education, luckily didn’t feel too different from other years.
“Even without [Israeli] campers, the celebration continued,” said Lee Trepeck, Tamarack CEO. “That was very important to the Camp Maas team and to our agency that we reserved time to celebrate even in the absence of [Israeli campers], and the spirit really reverberated.”
Both Trepeck and Weinstock believe the Israeli staff members being there this summer brought some normal back to campus, with the last year and a half being anything but normal.
“It was so important to give these campers a sense of normalcy, our camp community some of the same spirit as always and to remain connected to Israel in a time where too many people are disconnected,” Trepeck said.